After cooking 15 meals from five of the most popular meal kit delivery services over a three week period, I’m well on my way of reaching my New Year’s resolution to cook more often. I know some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions (including mine) revolve around food. Whether you want to cook healthier, cook more often, and/or lose weight, the solution to all these resolutions is the same—meal kit delivery services. I’m sharing all of my learnings from this crazy experiment with you so you can figure out which kit is best for you and your family.
Overall, I think Home Chef is best for those who want extra portions and Sun Basket is the best kit to get you out of your food rut, while Blue Apron is best for gourmet chefs. I’m deeming Hello Fresh the most crowd-pleasing option, and Green Chef best for those following a specific diet plan. Keep reading for details on each kit—from the unboxing process to sitting down to eat that first bite. While I don’t think any one kit is right for everyone, after testing all of these meal kits I am confident that there is a kit that’s right for you.
The meal choices at Home Chef are pretty typical for what I’ve seen from other meal kits, but what’s unique is that you are able to customize the portions of some of the ingredients in some of the recipes. For example, with some recipes you can order double the protein without doubling the overall portions. With other recipes you can choose to order antibiotic-free protein instead of the standard version it typically comes with. Meal kits are usually pretty standard in their offering (which is what keeps them efficient to the masses), so this is a way for Home Chef to stand out among the crowded marketplace.
Upon opening the large box, each meal was separated into an individual bag containing all of the grouped ingredients per recipe. This is how four of the five meal kits packaged the ingredients, so this seems to be the norm. While it kept everything organized, it did seem a bit wasteful environmentally. Also standard, all meat/seafood was on top of ice packs at the bottom of the box to ensure freshness. As an added bonus, they also included a binder where you can keep track of all of the recipe print-outs.
Favorite Meal We Cooked
I will definitely be recreating the Jerk Chicken Thigh-Stuffed Poblanos with Pineapple and Pickled Red Onion. The chicken was extremely flavorful and tender. While I typically cook with chicken breast versus chicken thigh, this recipe had me convinced I should cook with chicken thigh more often. The brightness and sweetness of the pineapple complimented the smokiness of the jerk sauce perfectly—it was like a flavor equation that was equally balanced on all sides. This recipe called for pickling onions with lime juice, and honestly, I had never heard of pickling anything without using vinegar. The pickled onions turned out to be tart and had a nice bite to them. I’ll be trying this quick hack for pickling again in my kitchen soon. One recipe note—this calls for two teaspoons of olive oil to be drizzled over the poblanos before roasting but I would cut that down to almost half that amount, as the poblanos still had a lot of excess oil around them once roasted.
Other Meals We Cooked
The Shrimp Pad Thai with Carrots, Roasted Peanuts, and Cilantro was one of the quickest and easiest meals I made throughout this testing process. It was like painting-by-numbers but with cooking, which is one of the greatest benefits of making a recipe from a meal kit delivery service. Sometimes after a long day you don’t feel like experimenting or being creative in the kitchen and you just want dinner on the table ASAP. This Shrimp Pad Thai does the trick. One recipe note—this says to prepare the shrimp, noodles, and vegetable mixture in a medium non-stick pan, but I felt the pan was too small to comfortably hold all of the ingredients. Instead, try using a large non-stick pan or a wok if you have one.
The Barbacoa Steak Tacos with Queso Fresco and Pickled Vegetables were not my favorite meal, as I found the steak strips to have a bland taste and grainy texture to them. However, I admittedly don’t consume red meat very often, so if you’re a red meat fan you will probably like these tacos better than I did. One recipe note—I had a tough time thickening up the sauce with the beef mixture. Instead of adding the recommended 1/4 cup of water, I would start with 1/8 cup of water and add more water if you need to.
Price/Subscription Sizes: $9.95 per serving for two or four servings per recipe, with additional premium recipes offered at market price.
Meal choices per week: 16 with a two- or four-person subscription
Special diet plans available: Vegetarian options, Nut-Free, Soy-Free, Wheat-Free, Dairy-Free
Is it organic? No
Interested in Home Chef?
I loved the variety of unique recipes offered from Sun Basket. I learned new recipes I probably otherwise wouldn’t have cooked, and while these were unfamiliar to me, they were still easy to make due to the detailed cooking instructions.
The unboxing process was like most of the other meal kits—each recipe was separated into individual paper bags within the overarching box and all meat/seafood was on top of ice packs at the bottom of the box to ensure freshness.
Favorite Meal I Cooked
While I don’t think the Tempeh “Bacon” Bowls with Sage-Roasted Vegetables tasted like bacon, it was still my favorite Sun Basket meal. I had eaten tempeh before but never cooked with it, so making this recipe felt like a fun experiment that broadened my cooking horizons. This meal is vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free, and while I don’t personally subscribe to any one of these specific diet plans, I appreciated how healthy this recipe felt. I also loved that this dish felt filling, and I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything. As far as recipe details go, pickling the onions felt fancy and fun, and really added a huge flavor boost. The tart dried cranberries balanced out the smokiness of the tempeh “bacon” marinade.
Other Meals I Cooked
I was immediately taken back to my fall vacation in Morocco by making this Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Artichokes, Tomato-Poached Eggs, and Couscous. It was probably the most exotic meal of the 12 I cooked, and really took me out of my comfort zone (in a good way). To me, this is one of the greatest benefits of doing a meal kit—discovering and trying something new. Poaching the eggs was a fun process, and it added a richness to the dish that paired well with the brightness of the tomato sauce and earthiness of the lamb. One note—this recipe calls for butter but the kit did not include it; instead, it refers to the butter as an item to include “from your pantry.” I noticed when some of the other meal kits had recipes that called for butter, they included it. Most people probably have butter on hand, so I don’t think it’s a huge deal, just a difference I noticed and thought worth mentioning.
The Shrimp Stir-Fry with Cambodian Tuk Trey Sauce and Jasmine Rice was easy to make and a cheaper version of a standard takeout dish I’d order. While it wasn’t super memorable compared to the other two recipes, there was nothing wrong with it.
Price/Subscription Sizes: $11.99 per serving for a two-person or four-person subscription at 3 meals/week; $10.99 per serving for a four-person “family-friendly” subscription at 2-4 meals/week
Meal choices per week: 18 with a two to four-person subscription and six with a four-person “family-friendly” subscription
Special diet plans available: Paleo, Gluten-Free, Vegetarian options, Vegan, Pescatarian, and Diabetes-Friendly
Is it organic? Yes.
Want to try Sun Basket for yourself?
I found the recipes in Blue Apron were most likely to be something I’d order in a restaurant. All of the recipes were still very approachable and easy for beginners to make, but I found these dishes tasted a little more elevated than some of the other meal kits I tried.
Of the four meal kits I tested, Blue Apron was the only one that didn’t group together ingredients by recipe in individual paper bags within the large box. Instead, all ingredients were packaged loosely in the box. This makes Blue Apron the greenest option in my opinion, as it used the least amount of packaging compared to the other kits I tried. It was still very easy to group ingredients together by recipe, as the recipe cards included pictures of which ingredients went with each one. Like all of the other meal kits, any meat/seafood was on top of ice packs at the bottom of the box to ensure freshness.
Favorite Meal I Cooked
Out of all of the delicious meals I cooked throughout this test, my overall favorite was the Seared Cod & Saffron Rice with Lemon-Butter Pan Sauce. The night I cooked this meal I found myself with house guests and a fridge full of meal kit meals, so I ended up making this one for the group—and everyone loved it. The prep time and step-by-step instructions were accurate, the ingredients were very fresh, and the recipe was overall very flavorful. I ended up adding all of the optional red pepper flakes because I like things spicy, but feel free to leave them out if you prefer things on the milder side (or if you’re trying to appeal to a child’s tamer palate). I really enjoyed the addition of kale to the rice, and found the “weeknight hero spice blend” to complement the fish perfectly.
Other Meals I Cooked
I was impressed with the quality of the steak in the Steaks & Brown Butter Sauce With Mashed Potatoes & Fried Rosemary and felt the cooking instructions for the meat was spot-on. However, I ended up roasting the carrots for approximately five minutes longer than the called-for 16-18 minutes, but I do like my vegetables on the crispier side and chalk this one up to personal preference. For the fried rosemary section of the recipe, when I added the herbs to the hot oil as instructed, the rosemary immediately burned. In the future, I would tweak these instructions to heat the oil on low heat instead of medium-high heat. I also thought the potatoes were slightly dry, but did appreciate that they didn’t call for cream or butter.
The Kale & Monterey Jack Quesadillas with Spicy Radish Salsa & Fried Eggs is definitely a dish I’d find myself ordering at brunch. This recipe was super easy and quick to make, and I think it’d be a good one to have (eager) kids help with. The bite of the radishes paired nicely with the kick of the guajillo chile pepper sauce and the creamy queso blanco cheese. I wanted seconds of this one!
Price/Subscription Sizes: $9.99 per serving for a two-person subscription at 2-3 meals/week (same price per meal at both 2 and 3 meals per week); $8.99-$7.49 per serving for a four-person subscription at 2-4 meals/week respectively.
Meal choices per week: Eight with a two-person subscription and five with a four-person subscription
Special diet plans available: Vegetarian options and Weight Watchers (Freestyle)
Is it organic? Some ingredients are organic, but overall Blue Apron is not an organic meal kit delivery service option.
Ready to try Blue Apron?
While I personally wasn’t as inspired with the recipes in Hello Fresh, that doesn’t mean it’s not a good fit for you. In fact, of all the meal kits I tried, I think Hello Fresh was the most crowd-pleasing of them all. The basic, simple recipes seemed particularly family-friendly when compared to other (more exotic) recipes I tried by different companies.
This meal kit was packaged like most of the others (upon opening the large box, each meal was separated into an individual paper bag containing all of the grouped ingredients per recipe and all meat/seafood was on top of ice packs at the bottom of the box to ensure freshness). As an added perk, they included a Hello Fresh apron that I found to be a fun bonus.
Favorite Meal I Cooked
The Figgy Balsamic Pork with Roasted Green Beans and Rosemary Potatoes was another meal I fed to my house guests (they happened to be visiting as I was having all of these meal kits delivered and I’m not one to be wasteful!), and it was another hit. Although I’m not typically a meat and potatoes kind of person, I actually loved this nostalgic meal with a twist. The figgy balsamic pan sauce was quite flavorful and the addition of rosemary to the roasted potatoes made them feel a little more upgraded than the potatoes I grew up with. The green beans were a crisp, fresh addition and rounded out the meal nicely. One recipe note—similar to the Lamb Tagine in Sun Basket, this recipe called for butter and did not include it, but rather asks you to provide it.
Other Meals I Cooked
At 1120 calories per serving, the Aioli-Topped Crab Cakes with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and a Cranberry Walnut Salad are definitely a calorie bomb. But crab cakes tend to be a crowd-pleaser, and these were no exception. The light, lemony salad balanced out the creamy crab cakes which were (understandably) quite rich, and the accompanying sweet potatoes were simple and healthy.
The recipe for Vietnamese Chicken Bowls with Sriracha Mayo and Jasmine Rice was another one that seemed like an at-home version of something I’d normally pick up from take-out on the way home. So if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to cook more, then this is a great option for you—the recipe uses fresh ingredients, has accurate cooking instructions, was easy to put together, and makes large portions. My favorite part was the garlicky pan sauce drizzled over the chicken. I found the Sriracha mayo to be less exciting.
Price/Subscription Sizes: $9.99-$8.99 per serving for a two-person subscription at 2-4 meals/week respectively; $7.87-$7.49 per serving for a four-person subscription at 2-3 meals/week respectively.
Meal choices per week: 15 with a two-person subscription and six with a four-person subscription
Special diet plans available: Vegetarian options
Is it organic? Hello Fresh is not an organic meal kit delivery service option.
Want to give Hello Fresh a shot?
I like Green Chef (owned by Hello Fresh) for its versatility in the different specific diet plans available. I tried the Paleo plan, but they also offer Keto, Pescatarian, Vegan, Vegetarian, and Gluten-Free options. So no matter which diet you’re following (for health or personal reasons), you’ll be able to find a plan that works for you.
The unboxing process was like most of the other meal kits—each recipe was separated into individual paper bags within the overarching box and all meat/seafood was on top of ice packs at the bottom of the box to ensure freshness. The package did include two free VitaCup coffee pods, which felt a little wasteful because I’m not a K-cup person and therefore had no use for them.
Favorite Meal I Cooked
If boyfriends could vote for their favorite recipe of the 12 I cooked, I’m told this Maple Balsamic BBQ Meatloaf with Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, and Cranberries would be it. While I do personally tend to cook a lot of Paleo/Pescatarian meals, I’ve never actually cooked meatloaf before. This is another good example of how meal kits can help you expand your typical repertoire of the 5-ish recipes you probably continually cook over and over again. The portion of tangy barbecue sauce was generous and helped keep the meatloaf moist and tender, and I was pleased to see such a large portion of bright and fresh vegetables included (even though it only came with one carrot instead of the stated two carrots on the recipe card). This ended up being a recipe I will try to recreate.
Other Meals I Cooked
The Chicken Al Pastor Wraps with Bell Pepper, Pickled Onions, Cabbage, and Carrot Slaw was a light meal—at 390 calories per serving, this was one of the lower calorie meals I tested. However, I still found this recipe satisfying. I loved the bright sweetness of the pineapple and the pickled onions—both gave great flavor to a pretty standard dish. The romaine lettuce was crisp and fresh, and the chicken seemed to be of good quality.
The Sausages with Braised Apple and Pan-Seared Acorn Fritters wasn’t a particularly standout dish, but I did think the squash fritters were a nice touch. They were kind of like savory Paleo pancakes.
Price/Subscription Sizes: $12.99-$11.99 per serving for a two-person subscription at 3 meals/week; $10.99 per serving for a four-person subscription at 2 meals/week.
Meal choices per week: Three to five (depending on diet plan) with a two-person subscription and two with a four-person subscription
Special diet plans available: Paleo, Keto, Pescatarian, Vegan, Vegetarian options, and Gluten-Free
Is it organic? Yes.
Decided to give Green Chef a go?
While these are the only ones we’ve tested so far, check out CNET’s Meal Kit Delivery Services Guide for even more options.
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